Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Citizendium: A More Accountable Wikipedia?

Citizendium: A More Accountable Wikipedia?
Monday, March 26, 2007
Posted by Amy Gahran 4:19:52 PM

Are you, like many journalists, squeamish about Wikipedia's anyone-can-edit, no-real-name-required approach? You might want to check out Citizendium, an intriguing Wikipedia rival that formally debuted Mar. 25.
Citizendium is the project of Larry Sanger, one of the pioneers of Wikipedia. AP reports on the new project: "Like Wikipedia, Citizendium will be non-profit, devoid of ads and free to read and edit. Unlike Wikipedia, Citizendium's volunteer contributors will be expected to provide their real names. Experts in given fields will be asked to check articles for accuracy."

As of this writing, Citizendium offers over 1100 "live" (vetted) articles. Here is Citizendium's definition of CZ Live status: "An article is live if (1) we started it ourselves; or (2) it is externally-sourced (e.g., from Wikipedia), and there have been at least three significant changes in three different places to the wording of an article. ...Only significant changes, which involve adding or completely rewriting sentences, can make an externally-sourced article CZ Live."

For quite a while, I expect that Wikipedia's substantial head start on content and community will make it a far more useful and popular resource than Citizendium. Over time, over course, that lead can narrow.

It remains to be seen whether Citizendium will prosper -- quite possibly its vetting model may prove too cumbersome or vulnerable to the inevitable cliquishness that develops within any large online community. And, of course, every system can and will be spoofed. However, it could become a preferred and authoritative resource -- at least on on some topics or for some communities.

We'll see. In the meantime, if you're interested in the Citizendium approach, remember that you get out of it what you put into it. I strongly encourage journalists who use either Citizendium or Wikipedia to contribute content to, or edit, those resources. Expertise and accountability are not spectator sports.

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